Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

“It’s how you do it:" world champions Chock and Bates talk life, Olympic medals, and career plans

Theirs is a career noteworthy for its longevity and its achievements.

Ice dancers Madison Chock, 31, and her soon-to-be husband, Evan Bates, 35, have filled their résumé with just about every medal possible during a skating partnership that began 13 seasons ago.

Chock and Bates are the defending champions going into this week’s World Figure Skating Championships in Montreal, where another medal of any color would be their fifth, making them the most decorated U.S. ice dance team ever at the world meet.

They have won an Olympic team event medal, now a gold from the 2022 Winter Games as a result of the doping disqualification of Russia’s Kamila Valieva - although when they will receive it still remains anyone’s guess given the latest appeals in a case that already has dragged on for more than two years.

They have won three gold medals and four other medals at the Four Continents Championships. They have won four gold medals at the Skate America Grand Prix event.

They won a first Grand Prix Final title (and fifth medal at that event) in December. They won a fifth U.S. title and 12th straight U.S. Championship medal in January, matching the legendary Michelle Kwan as the only team or individual with a dozen consecutive medals at nationals.

The only thing missing from their CV is an Olympic medal in the ice dance event. They placed fourth at the 2022 Winter Games, their third Olympic appearance as a team, after a ninth in 2018 and eighth in 2014.

MORE: How to Watch the 2024 World Figure Skating Championships

Will they try for the 2026 Winter Games in Milan, which would be Bates’ fifth Olympics, including one with a previous partner? That was a key question in a wide-ranging interview I did with them recently via FaceTime.

Question: Is winning an ice dance event medal enough of an incentive for you to keep going two more years?

Chock: In some ways, definitely yes. It’s always been a goal and a dream of ours, and I think it would be really special to have that individual medal. But I’m also just awaiting this special feeling of receiving the Olympic medal we’ve already earned.

Q. You have talked consistently since 2022 about taking one season at a time, but I still get the feeling that you are almost certainly going to Italy. Is that fair?

Chock: I would think it just makes sense. It’s not that far away at this point. But we’re getting married this summer (June in Hawaii), so who knows what kind of feelings or emotions that will bring, and maybe we’ll feel closure.

Bates: We would have an Olympic gold medal, too.

Chock: Maybe.

Bates: The whole (medal presentation delay) experience has just been really surreal. So many people have moved on from skating from that team. So, it’s time that we get some closure. Everyone has the right to appeal and seek their full due process. We’re really looking forward to the day we get our medals.

Q. While we’re loosely on that subject, do you feel sadness or sympathy for Kamila, who was only 15 when this all happened?

Chock: Absolutely. I think we have a ton of empathy for her. If I just put myself back in my shoes as a skater at that age, it’s really hard to, I think, grapple with the grand scale of everything at the Olympics. It’s hard to see her go through this, and I just hope she has the support she needs for her mental health, because I know that it’s probably been pretty challenging for her.

Q. Before you paired up, you both had successful partnerships with other skaters that ended after four or fewer seasons as seniors. (Bates was 11th at the 2010 Olympics with his previous partner, Emily Samuelson.) Why do you think you two clicked as a team that would stick together for 13 seasons?

Chock: I’ve always liked Evan. Even before we skated together, we just got on really well. He has a great energy. He’s funny, charismatic, and we just had a good chemistry right from the start.

Bates: We were both determined to turn over every stone and try our best to fulfill whatever potential we may have. That kind of yearning to just improve and continue to learn is the carrot that keeps us going, more so than medals and accolades, although we definitely are shooting for those as well.

Chock: If you find something in life that brings you so much joy, fulfillment, growth, and happiness, wouldn’t you want to continue doing that as long as possible? When you’re still inspired by it, still in love with it, still able to do it, why should you stop just because some people say, “Oh, well, maybe you’re kind of old or people have retired once they’ve accomplished this or that?”

Q. Was there ever a moment when one or one or both of you thought of stopping?

Chock: There were moments that were actually catalysts for us to keep going. They were typically hardships, such as (struggling at) the 2018 Olympics and my ankle surgery after that. We can look back and say, “Wow, that was a turning point.” It propelled us on to move to Montreal (from suburban Detroit) and to find a new inspiration (with new coaches, Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon, and Romain Hagenauer, at the Ice Academy of Montreal) and drive ourselves in a different direction.

Q. What was the big difference in the coaching?

Chock: We’ve learned a lot on twizzle technique, on skating skills, partnering – all stuff that we didn’t really have a good fundamental base on before. I think we kind of just were doing them. We could have kept skating the way that we were skating and probably been fine and still achieved some things, but we wanted to learn it all again.

Bates: When we moved to Montreal, it seemed like there was just a whole new discovery of places and areas where we could continue to grow.

Q. Your iconic “Egyptian snake charmer” free dance – a dramatic stylistic change for you - came a season after moving to Montreal. Does that encapsulate the difference in your new environment?

Bates: That was probably the first time where we had a program that felt like it had taken on a life of its own, where people would be telling us that they were really excited to see that particular piece of choreography. Then because of COVID and the (2019-20) season getting cut short before worlds, we ended up keeping it a second season. So, I feel like we really grew a lot with that program. And it really changed the game for us.

ALSO: Kaori Sakamoto prepares for nerves, history at world figure skating championships

Q. You went from skating partners to romantic partners about seven years ago and became engaged in 2022. How do you keep a rough day in practice or competition from bleeding into your life as a couple?

Chock: One of the biggest challenges of being a couple on and off the ice is no matter how hard you try or say it doesn’t bleed, it does. Sometimes you just take it (mistakes and criticism) personally because it’s the person you love that you’re working with. And even if it’s not personal, it’s hard to not take it that way sometimes.

Bates: We’re really pushing ourselves, and we’re often feeling exhaustion or fatigue or pain or whatever. And so I think over the years we’ve learned to have a perspective that (mistakes) are okay, and it’s not really worth blowing it out of proportion. But it’s really tough in the moment because emotions do get into it, because we’re so invested in it and passionate about it.

Chock: As long as we communicate about it and don’t let it fester, it’s fine.

Q. Do you interact differently with each other on the ice since you’ve been a “life” couple?

Bates: We’ve learned that on the ice we take on a little bit more of a competitive persona with a little bit more focus and maybe a little bit more edge, no pun intended. Off the ice, we’re way more laid back. That took some getting used to – understanding this kind of edge that we step onto the ice with has actually served us well and is probably a big part of why we’ve been able to succeed in this sport.

Q. But you don’t hold back in terms of constructive criticism?

Chock: No. As long as it’s necessary and as long as it comes from a good place, there’s no harm in constructive criticism.

Q. Are you dancers who skate or skaters who dance?

Bates: More and more and more trying to be dancers, but that’s a really good question. That’s like sort of ice dance in a nutshell: it’s not what you do. It’s how you do it.

Q. What are your long-term plans? Once you’ve retired from competition, where do you think you might live?

Chock: We definitely want to stay involved in skating. We’ve learned so much and come so far that it would almost be a crime to not share that knowledge with the younger generations. I don’t know if we’d ever be full-time coaches. But we want to pass on what we’ve learned.

Bates: I have a lot of family in the Midwest. Madi has a lot of family in California. We’re American kids and maybe one day, we will spend more time below the border. We’d probably have retired in 2018 if Marie, Patch (Lauzon) and Romain didn’t take us on. So, I’m very grateful for the Ice Academy, for Montreal and for this chapter of our lives. But it’s hard to say what the next chapter is going to be.

Q. You seem to be just hitting your stride. Could you consider competing beyond the next Olympics?

Bates: I think it would be really difficult to continue to put on hold some of the life that we have planned. I would never say never, but I think just getting to a fifth Olympics would be quite a feat.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 12 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to